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Now On: Lace in Fashion


Drawing from the museum’s collection, as well as generous loans from contemporary fashion designers, the exhibition showcases 50 exquisite pieces, taking visitors on a historical trip from its handcrafted origins, bobbin lace and needle lace, to the mechanised versions that are more commonplace today.

LACE Fashion Museum Bath 2 LACE Fashion Museum 1920s

(Early examples of lace – Two lace dresses left: Venetian Gros Point needle lace, silk blonde bobbin lace Black silk damask bodice and skirt, 1890s, with panels and trimmings of Venetian Gros Pint needle lace, 1600s. Yellow spotted muslin dress with a decorative panel of silk blonde bobbin lace, about 1815.

Three lace dresses right: Leavers machine-made gold metal thread lace, gold metal thread chemical lace, machine-made tape lace and braid, 1900s. Blue silk dress with Leavers machine-made gold metal thread lace, 1920s. Cream cotton tape lace dress made from four different types of machine-made tape and braid, all joined together by hand, 1920s. Credit: Fashion Museum Bath.)

LACE 4The exhibition’s curator, Elly Summers, worked painstakingly to catalogue the museum’s extensive collection of lace dating from the 1500s to the present day, supported by a grant from the Arts Council England and assisted by expert volunteers from the Lace Guild. This research has uncovered many gems from the collection – for example a lace dress made in 1805, which may be the only surviving dress worn by Queen Charlotte.

Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “‘Lace in Fashion’ showcase some of the rarest and most beautiful pieces from the Fashion Museum collection, and explores the fascinating history of lace. We are delighted that fashion designers – from the UK to Australia – are supporting the Fashion Museum by generously lending pieces for the exhibition.”

The oldest piece in the exhibition is a smock dating from 1580-1600 with Flemish bobbin lace on the sleeves and collar, which is one of the earliest pieces in the Fashion Museum’s collection. Another of the museum’s rarest treasures on show is a silver tissue dress made from fine silk woven with silver thread and trimmed with parchment lace, which dates from around 1660. This is a rare survival of parchment lace, a delicate fabric made using tiny strips of parchment or paper, wrapped in silk and incorporated into the design of the bobbin-made lace.

In its early days lace was a high-value fabric and a sign of prestige that could only be afforded by the likes of royals and the aristocracy. Handcrafted lace – bobbin lace (image below) and needle lace, were both incredibly time consuming to produce, and required great levels of skill.

LACE by hand

At the end of the 1800s mechanisation made lace more affordable. New lace-making techniques appeared, including machine lace, chemical lace, tape lace and tatting. Examples of which are all on show at the exhibition.

LACE burberry LACE kane mcqueen

(Image left: Both designs by Burberry, image right: designs by Christopher Kane and Alexander McQueen)

Looking at the use of lace in contemporary fashion today global British luxury brand Burberry has loaned two looks from its Spring/Summer 2016 collections: a menswear look including a lace caban and shirt, and a womenswear look featuring a silk and lace dress. Other highlights include a navy blue lace dress worn by Lea Seydoux in the James Bond film Spectre, which has been loaned to the museum by Australian design duo Lover, and a 1991 Karl Lagerfeld dress worn by 1990s supermodel Linda Evangelista in British Vogue, which celebrated its centenary in 2016.

LACE grace wellerOpening the exhibition is a trio of designs by former Bath Spa University graduate and 2014 Gold & Womenswear Award Winner at Graduate Fashion Week – Grace Weller (one of her designs pictured right). She reworked sections of lace and combined them with large scale embroideries using hand and machine techniques. The result is a stunning visual feast that combines delicate textures and colours beautifully.

‘Lace in Fashion’ complements the Fashion Museum’s major exhibition, ‘A History of Fashion in 100 Objects’, which runs until 1 January 2019. Admission to both exhibitions is included in the Fashion Museum ticket. 

Fashion Museum, Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, Bath BA1 2QH



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